"Yoko Ono" or "Ono Yoko"?: A Game-theoretic Answer to the Question
Y ABU SHIT A Katsuhiko'
There are two ways of saying a Japanese name in English with respect to the relative order between the given name and the family name, i.e. the order of given name and family name and that of family name and given name. It is clear that the coexistence of the two ways of saying a Japanese name will lead to a confusion in that when you hear a name comprised of two parts, YOll cannot tell which part is the family name and which part is the given name for sure. So it is desirable that either one way should be adopted as the standard one. The question is which one should be chosen. Obviously, it must be not so easy to decide on either order, for if it were, one order would be exclusively used now, whichever it is. Indeed, both orders have their respective proponents. The representative opinion of people advocating the order of given name and family name is something like the following. In English communication scenes in not only English speaking countries but the world in general, people's names are usually said in the order of given name and tamily name; in other words, the order is a convention, which we had better follow. On the other hand, proponents of the order of family name and given name typically insist that for a person, her name is important part of her identity, so the original foml of her name should be kept no matter of what language is to be used. That is, in the case of Japanese people, the original order of family name and given name for their names in Japanese should be used even in saying their names in English.
Both positions have a point of their own. Thus, there is no way to decide on which order is correct in the absolute sense with the current state of affairs surrounding the issue under consideration, which is why the hvo orders are both in use and there is no consensus among the Japanese people as to which order should be used when saying Japanese names in English.
However, it is clear that the use of both orders is confusing in that given a name, you cannot tell whether the first part is the given name and the second part is the family, or vlce versa. So it is desirable to decide on the standard order to be lIsed for saying Japanese names in English. The question is, again, which order should be designated as the standard one. As seen above, both camps supporting the respective options have an equally reasonable point of their own; one insists that the order of given name and family name is a convention for saying names in general in English, while the other protests that the name of a person is essential part of her unique identity; thus, changing it in fonn, in this case, the relative order between the family name and the given name, will mean disrespecting her identity, so the correct order for the name of a Japanese person
is that of family name and given name in whatever language is being used. As they are, one cannot be judged over the other, as can be witnessed by the fact that both orders have been in use without one of them having been weeded out, which indicates that neither position has a knockout argument against the other.
The indeterminacy about which order is to be designated as the standard is natural considering tbat the arguments for the respective orders have been made on separate criteria:
cOIyormity to CIIstomfor the order of given name and family name and
preservation of identity fortbe order of family name and given name. When two or more ways of doing something are compared with one another tor their superiority, the superiority can be detennined only with respect to some criterion or some set of criteria. That is, the order of given name and family name is superior to the opposite order with respect to the criterion of conformity to custom, while the order of family name and given name is superior to the other order with regards to the criterion of preservation of identity. When one way is superior with respect to a criterion and the other is superior with regards to another criterion, you cannot tell which way is superior overall. Thus, in order to detennine the overall superiority between the two orders, we must propose a new criterion with respect to which the two orders will be compared for the superiority and which is reasonable to assume for the use of names in language communication. For such a criterion, I propose
accuracy of il'iformatiol1 transmission,which is, in the current case, rendered as the accurate identification of the given name and the family name. It is reasonable to suggest that (the use ot) any form of communication, linguistic or not, should be something such that it respects accuracy of information transmission as much as possible; otherwise, you would fall off a wall with Humpty Dumpty to say, "When! use
aword, it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less" (Caroll,
1999,p.213). With such use of words, or linguistic expressions, there is no way of expecting infonnation to be transmitted accurately. Although the use, or coexistence of both orders for a (Japanese) name is not so chaotic a transmission of infonnation as Humpty Dumpty's use of words, or linguistic expressions, it is certainly the case that the less ambiguity the interpretation of a name has, the higher the probabilily that the name is successfully transmitted \yill be.
accuracy of i1iforlnalioJ1 transmissionis so fimdamcntu! a condition to be expected of any (linguistic) communicational act, in this case, specifically, the conveyance of a name, in contrast to subjective conditions like
cOIyormily 10 clIslom and preselllotioll o/identity, Ipropose that the two orders should be compared for one's superiority over the other with respect to accuracy of information transmission; that is, the order that is advantageous for the purpose of accurate transmission of information should be adopted over the other.
Inthe following, 1 will present an analysis in terms of game theory to demonstrate that the order of given name and family name is the "rational" choice for the goal of securing better chances of names being transmitted correctly, or the correct identification of the given and the family names.
-2-2. Game-theoretic Analysis
2.1.Detinition of Saying Names in English
Besides uttering names orally in either order, the order of given name and family name, as in "Yako Ono" or the opposite order, as in "Ono Yoko", also included in saying names in English are writing names in English alphabet in the following ways:
• Writing names with the first letter of both the given name and family name being a capital letter and the rest being lower-case letters in either order, as in Yoko Ono and Ono Yoko
• Writing both the given name and the family name all in capital letters in either order, as
• Writing both the given name and the family name all in lowercase letters in either order, as in yoko ono and 0/10 yoko
However, excluded from saying names in English is a way of writing names in English with the first letter of the given name being in a capital letter, the rest of the given name in lowercase letters, and the tamily name all in capital letters in either order, as in Yoko ONO and ONO Yoko, for whichever order is used, it is clear which is the given name and which is the family name.
Game theory is a study of decisions made interactively by intelligent rational agents as to their actions, or strategies to attain some goal. In this paper, unfortunately, I can hardly do justice to the readers who are uninitiated in game theory to give an adequate exposition of the theory, but I can only hope the reader will pick up bits and pieces of game theory to understand and appreciate the gist of game theory as we go through a game-theoretic analysis of the situation at issue. For the introduction to game theory, see c.g. Muto (2001) and Osbome (2004) among others, which I personally have found good and accessible.
Saying names can be regarded as a game in which a name is conveyed from the sayer to the hearer. It is assumed that both the sayer and the hearer prefer for the name to be transmitted correctly, Le. for the given name and the famHy name to be identified correctly, to otherwise and as such the sayer and the hearer are expected to take "strategies" to optimize the chances for correct transmission of names. Henceforth, the sayer and the hearer
willbe referred to as the sender and the receiver, respectively in consideration that the game in question is considered a kind of "signaling game" in which a sender "signals" some infommtion, in this case, what the name is, to a receiver.
For a game-Uleoretic
of which order
rational for better
, a word is in order about the assessment of the situation of saying names
and (mis-)understanding them and the abbreviati
tenns to be adopted here.
2.3. Facts of the Situation of
Following are faclS about
the situations of names being conveyed in English.
The order of
given name and family name
and that of family name and
given name (henceforth,F-G)
the name she sent
be decoded by Receiver, as G·F or F·G.
Receiver doesn't know how the name was encoded by Sender. as G-F or
of Sender and Receiver
There are three types of Sender as
in the following:(2)
Three types of
senders who always encodea
the order ofG-F• SF-G:
senders who always encode a name in
the order ofF-G
The type of senders whoU~
eiUler order probabilistically
Likewise, there are three types of
Receiver as in the following:
Three types of
TIle type of
receivers who always decode a name
in the order ofG·F
• RH:i: The type
R: The type of receivers who use either order probabilislical\y
the types of Sender and
it is possible
to present a
types of senders
and those of receivers
situation of transmitting names.
(4) Combinations of the Senders and the Receivers in communicating names
SO.F - - - o~---
o~-- 0 ...
Probably, a word is in order about the above diagram. A circle,
°stands for a point where there arc more than one possible case; for example, the left-most circle indicates the point where the sender sends a name, in which there are three possible types of the sender:SG.F, SF.G and S. TIle sender of type S will decide to be of type SG.r sometimes and of type SF-G other times. The sender of any type matches up with the three types of the receiver with their respective probabilities. The receiver of type R decides to be of type RG•r sometimes and Rr.G other times.
2.5. Game-theoretic Modeling of the Situation
For a game-theoretic analysis of which order will be more preferable to the other, G-F or F-G, the situation of saying names in English, first, needs to be modeled in tenus of game theory. The basic components of a game are
0)a set of players,
OJ)for each player, a set of actions, and (iii) for each player, preferences over the set of outcomes. For the current situation, the players are the sender and the receiver, specifically, the sender of lype S and the receiver of type R. The senders of types SG.F and SF.G and the receivers of types RG.F and RF-G do not make a decision as to which order is to be used; therefore, they are excluded from the players of the game. The actions for the sender and the receiver are to choose behveen the orders of G-F and F-G for encoding and decoding a name, respectively. The types of the outcomes of the decisions are hvofold; that is, that a name is transmitted as intended and that it is not transmitted as intended. A name is transmitted as intended when it is both encoded and decoded as G-F or both as F-G, while it is not transmitted as intended when it is encoded as G-F but decoded F-G or vice versa.In(4), the outcome of an interaction between the sender of some type and the receiver of some type is represented as a sequence composed of at least one of the following nodes: 0, SG.F, SF.G, S, RG.F, RF.G, Rsuch that it starts with the left-most 0, the nodes are connected by a line, and the last node is not followed
by a line. For example. a sequence, (0, SO-F, 0, Ro.,,) is an outcome in (4), modeling the case
where the speaker of type SG-r meets the receiver of type ~.".Outcomes in this sense are also called terminal histories. Given that tbe aCClU"acy of infomlation transmission has now been proposed as the criterion to judge the two modes of saying names in Englisll. it is reasonable to
suppose for both the sender and the receiver to prefer an outcome where a name is transmitted as intended to one where a name is not transmitted as intended. The preferences arc here represented as payoff, or utility values, or more specifically the values of a payoff, or utility function, II such
that for an outcome, or tenninal historyll resulting in a successful transmission, lI(lI) =- I and for
an outcome, or tenninal history'" resulting in an unsuccessfultransmission,
selling. ruth the sender and the receiver are expected to take actions, or adopt stmtegiessllch that
the outcomes will have the utility value of 1. However, the outcomes are not determined uniquely by their strategies partly because some coursesof events occur probabilistically. 11mt is, whichever order the sender takes, G-F or F-G, it is only probabilistically determined which type
of the receiver the sender encounters, the receiver does not know which order the sender has taken for sure, G-F or F-G, and furthennore, both the sender of type S and the receiver of type R take
their actions probabilisticallyl. As a consequence, the outcomes of their strntegies will not be detennined uniquely, but only as probability distributions over the possible outcomes and then, the utility values relevant here wil! be the expected values of a utility function over the outcomes.
For an illustration of how the situation can be modeled game-theoretically, let me introduce the extensive fomt of the game reflecting the (mixed) strategies of the sender and the receiver,
which is in fact a fully unfolded version of (4) and furthemlOre, is annotated with the actions the
sender and the receiver take and the probabilities of the alternatives at each turning point; G-F and F-G on some lines arc the actions the sender and the receiver can take, and the lowercase letters on some lines denote the probabilities ofthe cases the lines represent.
~.qv( I-p·q)r :@ G-F R
GnG-p-q RG_ F
I@: @:O @: (I-v-w)tp (I-v-w)t( I-p·q)r RF_ G
~RG'F-@:O Sf-G° q RF-G - @: wq w I_p·
I-v-wF·G t RG_ F
I@:O q RF_ G
I@: (I-v-w)uq I-p-, s @: w( l-p-qJs
/rs,,"-@:O @: ( l-v-w)u(l-p-qJs
h the ce
sconveyed as intended with the given name and the family name identified correctly. having the utility value of I, while one with a frowning face is a case where a name is rransmitted incorrectly,
suchthat she adopts the order of G-F with the probability of I, the strategy results in more than one outcome because the type
ofthe receiver is only dctennined probabilistically, Neither does
receiver's strategy, The reason, this time, is that the receiver does not
knowwhat lype of the sender she is dealing with, which can be detemlined only probabilistically again, Then, how can the utility
ofthe sender's strategy be represented? We
canuse the notion of expected va/lie, specifically, e.xpected utility value, The expected utility value of a set of outcomes with
aprobability distribution over the set is the sum of the product of the probabilily and the utility value [or each outcome, which is expressed as ill the following:
(6) Definition (Expected utility value of a set of outcomes with a probability distribution on the set)
Suppose there is a list of outcome (a/, ... , a,,), the list of the probabilities of the respective outcomes is (PI, "', p,,), and II is the utility function for the outcomes, then the expected utility
is defined to be:
In diagram (5), the expected utility value of each outcome, or terminal history is given next to or beneath its smiling or frowning face. Since the expected utility of an outcome is the product of the probability with which the outcome occurs and the utility value of the outcome, the value is equal to the probability for an outcome of a successfill transmission of a name because the utility value is I, while it is 0 for an outcome of an unsuccessful transmission of a name because the utility value is O. Then, the end result of the sender's (mixed) strategy and the receiver's one, i.e. their expected utility value is the summation of the expected utility value of each outcome, which is:
(7) Expected utility value of the sender's and the receiver's (mixed) strategies
+v(l~p~q)r + wq
+(l-v-w)t(l-p-q)r+ (l-v-w)tp + (l-v-w)uq
By means of the expected utility value for the sender and the receiver defined above, we can now paraphrase in concrete terms, the question of what is a rational strategy for the sender and the receiver to optimize the chances of successful transmission of names said in English. That is, considering the meaning of the expected utility value, it is obvious that the best, or rational strategies for the sender and the receiver are ones such that they maximize the expected utility value. In the following, it will be shown that with a reasonable premise about the current state of saying Japanese names in English, the expected utility value
willbe maximum when t = 1, u = 0, r = 1, and s = O. With t and u being the probabilities for the sender, S to choose G-F and F~G, respectively, and rand s being the probabilities for the receiver, R to choose G-F and F~G, respectively, the above result means that the strategy for both the speaker and the receiver to take the action ofG~F results in the highest expected utility value, i.e. the best chances for a name to be transmitted correctly. In that sense, the order of G~F is considered to be the rational choice for saying Japanese names in English, The proposition to be proved is the following:
is maximum when
the condition that v>
.011 the condition Ihal v
a fact about saying
English in th
world. As v
the sender to
and q are
'v> wandp > q'
that more people adopt
understanding) names in English
current state of affairs
us proceed with the proof
(9) Proof of proposition (8)
vp, v(l-p-q)r, wq, w(l-p-q)s
tenns containing t or u, over which the
r or s,
R has control
(I-v-w)tp, (I-v-w)uq, v( I-p-g)r, w( I-p-g)s, (l-v-w)l( I-p-g)r, and (I-v-w)lI( I-p-g)s.
expected utility value as a
the following tenn:
+(l-v-w)u(I-p-q)s ... (i)
is subject to the variations
the values oft, u,
nd the second teon
+(I-v-w)uq ... (ii)
the fourth tenn
+w( I-p-g)s ... (iii).
tcnn (iii) as
will be maximum when r=
Finally, let u
of the fifth
the sixth ternlS
+(I-v-w)u( I-p-g)s ... (iv).
1. So the
alternative should be chosen. Our
that makes th
(i) as a whole
will be maximum when t = I,
Proposition (8) in effect says that it serves best for better chances of COiTect transmission of names in English, for both the sender, S and the receiver, R to choose the order of G-F; in other words, on the cun'ent cliterion of correct infonllation transmission, the order of G-F is to be judged over that ofF-G.
To break the stalemate between the positions arguing for the respective orders in saying Japanese names in English, 1 proposed for the judgment, a novel criterion which is objective, and furthennore, is to be satisfied by any communication act, linguistic or not i.e. accuracy of infbnnation transmission. For an assessment of the two orders against the criterion, I modeled the situation of saying names in English in tenns of game theory and demonstrated that the order of given name and k1mily name is more advantageous with respective to the proposed criterion than the other order; in other words, the order of G-F is the rational choice for better chances of a Japanese name being correctly transmitted, Le. the given name and the family name being correctly identified. Despite the above result, people are still free to use whichever order they prefer when they say Japanese names in English. Nonetheless, I hope that the current analysis has shed or will shed new light on the current issue, serving as new information for people to base their decisions on.
• I gave a presentation on the topic of this paper at the 28th Annual Meeting ofNaruto University of Education Society of English Education on August 3, 2013, at Research Seminar of Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics, City University of Hong Kong on March 24, 2014, and at the 1st Meeting of Japan Society of Subject Contents on May 4, 2014. I am ve!y grateful to the audiences for their helpful comments and suggestions.
The original motivation fbr me to work on the current topic came (i'om the strangeness I felt when I saw that the order of family name and given name is adopted lor Japanese names in eve!y junior high school English textbook that is approved by Japanese Ministry of Education and Science and is currently on the market in Japan. I just wanted to demonstrate that the order of given name and lamily name, which is much more widely used by not only English speaking people bllt also Japanese people when they say their names in English, is motivated on an objective ground, i.e. for the sake of accuracy of infonnation transmission, which should be respected by any communication means, linguistic or not. In fact, in the presentations,
rtouched UpOll the situation of the textbooks and speculated on the reason for the textbooks' "out-of-touchness" from the reality as well. However, the discussion of this paper is restricted to a game-theoretic analysis that the order of given name and family name is the rational choice for the object of securing better chances of correct infonnation transmission, partly because of space limitations.
By the way, the order of family name and given name that is used for my author name on the title page seems to be against the thesis to be presented in this paper; namely, the order of given name and family name is "rational" in saying names in English. Indeed,
rwould nOlmally write my name as Katsuhiko Yabushita in English documents, as I have done and wi!! do so. Hut, the
-thing is that I had to follow the style for names, which is specified by the style sheet ofthejouma1. However, fortunately or unfortunately, the way of writing Japanese names in the above way is not
inconsistent Wilh, or strictly speaking, is exempted from the thesis, as will become clear in section
Last, but not least, I would like to express my gratitude to the volume editor, Professor Yuko
Sugillra for patiently keeping reminding me of the current project. Without her encouragement, I would be still working on this papcr.
I The assumption that both the sender and the receiver lake their actions probabiiistically. which
arc called mixed sIrategies instead of pure stralegies where the players choose their actions
detcnninislically, is immaterial to the current discussion. Tlmt is because a pure strategy is
considered to be a special case of a mixed strategy where one offhe available actions is chosen tit
1.In fact, as will be demonstrated. the rational strategies for
boththe sender and
the receiver will
tumout to be choosing the order of G~F with the probability of 1, which is
equivalent to the pure strategy of choosing the order detcnninistically.
2 I have talked on the cllrrent issue
inclnsses and conference presentations whose audiences
mostly Japanese, at least five times. Always I asked the audiences which order they lISed or would
use, G·F or F·G when they said their names in English. Always almost all the J<lpancse people (,
for instance, 67 out of70 all one occasion) said that they would lIse the order ofG~F. Always the clear minorities were mostly people in English education, which, 1 think, is ironic.
Caroll, Lewis. 1999. The AmlOla/rtd Alice: Alice
sadventures ill WOllder/and & Through fhe lookil1g~glass, edited by Martin Gardner with an introduction and notes. New York:
Norton & Company.
Mula, Shigco. 2001. Geemll Rimn NYlllllllon [Introduction to game theory]. Tokyo: Nihon Kcizai
Osbome, Martin J. 2004. An in/mdlle/ionlo Game Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.